In this year’s first YAMI(Young And Making It) series, I interviewed the motivational CEO of Colours and Grey, a PR and Digital Marketing solutions company. I came across her page early last year and soon got taken by her brand and drive to inspire others to pursue their dreams and grow their businesses. Some time later, she posted briefly about her journey and the lot she had had to overcome to get to where she is, and I was curious. If she had been through all she had written and had come out victorious, it was a story I wanted to share to inspire others to never give up on themselves. If there’s anything I truly believe, it’s that it we’re all able and equipped to live the life of our dreams if we work towards it.
Enough from me now, read on and be inspired to push out of your comfort zone to a better you.
S: Please introduce yourself.
D: My name is Dako Alice Temitope. I am an indigene of Benin Republic, but a lot of people doubt me when I say so. I guess it’s because I speak Yoruba so fluently and so little of my own language(I have been in Nigerian almost all my life sha). I was born in Ogun State and that was where I had all my education(till I dropped out of Babcock University). I did my primary school at Omolola nursery and primary school, Sagamu and went to Federal Government Girls’ College, Sagamu for my secondary school education after which I went to Babcock University where I had a diploma degree in Computer Science and then proceeded for my B.Sc degree in the same course until I had to leave in 300level( 3rd Year) for Houdegbe North American University, Benin Republic to complete my university education.
I graduated in July, 2015 after which I resumed full time at 360nobs office where I had been working part time for over a year while I was at university. During my university days, I worked for entertainment/media outfits like connectnigeria.com, tosynbucknor.com, Afrisphere magazine and freelance works here and there. On leaving university, I worked as a freelance blogger, social media manager, brand development personnel, brand manager for some brands before I decided to stand on my own. I turned 25 on the 1st of December.
S: You’ve said some things about your troubled past on IG, would you mind sharing more about your story and what led you down that path?
D: Although, this is quite personal, I’ll try and say as much as possible without holding a lot back. When I was in my 2nd year in Babcock university, I was sexually assaulted twice by people I trusted so much. This incidence messed me up so much because I could not even talk to anyone about it without feeling judged. I grew up with “perfect” siblings and I felt like no one would understand what I was going through or would blame me for everything that happened. I wished I had the courage to really speak out to my best friend then, but I just kept mute and decided to fight the battle by myself and in order to cope, I started skipping classes and leaving school without permit to go partying, drinking and smoking. There, I found some sort of cheap solace and I hung onto it blindly; so blindly that school became a burden. I never spent more than two weeks in school and even then, I would only stay in my room and watch movies and make plans for the next escapade all day long. That was all I cared about then; partying and drowning all my sorrow and bitterness in tattooing my body (I have two) and in every form of cheap pill and alcohol I could find. I checked out on life totally and became withdrawn to myself.
S: What was your turning point and what caused you to want a change?
D: I would not say I had an epiphany and decided to give my life to Christ and move on. In fact, if my family friend who was in the same class with me, had not reported me to my older sister, I would still be a lost cause (maybe). My sister decided to do a mini investigation and found out I had truly not been going to school and taking tests and exams. She reported to my mom and the rest was history. At that point, everyone at home had one thing or another to say about me. My dad was so flipped and decided to disown me and wash his hands off of me. I am quite stubborn, so I pretended that I had a thick skin and nothing was getting to me. I ran away from home twice and vowed not to ever go back home but my mom (God bless her) gave everything to bring me back home. When I finally went back home, my mom would always sit me down and advise me amidst hot tears and pray with me. I was sick when I got back home and only my mom took care of me. My dad would always tell her she was wasting her time for taking care of me.
I wouldn’t say what caused me to change was my mom (yeah, she made a lot of effort every day, I am grateful that she did not give up on me and fought with me to become a better person), but my father’s very negative attitude. Every morning, he would wake up, talk me down and say so many nasty things to me. It tore me apart so badly and all I wanted to do was prove to him that he made a huge mistake writing me off totally as a lost cause.
S: What were the 3 most important things you had to do/ overcome to activate the change you sought?
D: The first thing was I had to really motivate myself to move away from the past; forgive and forget the whole thing that caused the whole debacle in the first place. It was not easy, but I had to be strong. So, I forgave myself and reconciled with myself; in that, I found something in me that I never did before and will forever be grateful for.
The second thing that helped activate the change I wanted was moving to Republic of Benin to complete my university education. That way, I found it easier to detach myself from a lot of things and people. Although I was from there, Cotonou was very new to me and so, it was hard to actually indulge in alcohol and parties and weed like I used to in Nigeria, plus I was very broke. I had little to keep my stomach full all day, so going alcohol hunting was the least of all my worries. Maybe I went too far, but I refused to talk to anyone from my past. Even when they called, I would try my best to ignore them. I knew I could not make any tangible change if I kept holding onto things or people from the past- people who I knew would be ready to accommodate me anytime I wanted to travel down to Lagos. So, in order to become a better person, I made sure I left everything I knew, had an attachment with and loved behind me to forge a better relationship with myself and become my mother’s pride.
The third and most important part was I found and bonded with God. Prior to that time, I was not ignorant of God’s existence but I was tired of hearing about him. I grew up in a “you must go to church” home and attending Babcock, there was no freedom from church; you had to go every other day. Going to church then was more of a chore than a choice because at home if you did not go, you would be punished and same if you missed church service in school too. Even when I moved to Benin Republic, I was not so stoked about going to church; I felt God was just so against me and didn’t love me. My neighbors would always make it a point to invite me, but I never went till one day, I decided to attend the fellowship with her; more out of boredom and so she would stop pestering me to go to church, but there I found a gathering like never before. I felt something different that day and the seed to learn more about God was planted in my heart. Frankly, knowing and having a relationship with God was what made me overcome so many things. In God, I became a new person and I found myself breaking grounds I never would have thought I would.
S: How were you able to create your own company- Colours and Grey, from the girl who had that past?
D: Growing up, I had never wanted anything than to be my own boss. I never saw myself as the type that would take orders from anyone or be confined to a particular “pattern” for so long. I am a lover of adventure and love to make things happen. So, whether I had a past or not, I knew I was never going to work for anyone and if I did, it was only to garner experience and the appropriate knowledge in growing a successful brand but truthfully, without a past, it would not have been this sooner. There was something about everything I went through that mentally prepared the future I wanted for myself and pushed me to work hard for it. The fact that a lot of people think people who drop out of university or have tattoos or did some things that are not societally acceptable end up becoming irrelevant was/is one of my inspirations. I wanted to prove a lot of people wrong and set an example for people like me who have been considered misfits or tagged the black sheep. I wanted to be a source of motivation and a fire lighter to as many people as possible and one of the ways I could do that was living/leading by example. I would say the fact that I was a girl with a past was what really pushed to me to do “exploit”; my past was a major catalyst in whatever achievements I am making or would make in the future.
S: Have you always loved writing, blogging and marketing? (Did you have previous experience in these fields?)
D: Writing- YES!!! I have always loved writing. Growing up, all I wanted to do was travel around the globe and document my experience in a journal. I enjoy writing a lot. It was my way of exploring territories that were almost abominable. As a writer, you could be anything and everything with your stories- a saint, sinner or even a god. There is a special kind of freedom that comes with writing that I have not found anywhere else; you can be anything and everything at any time you want. I have been writing since I could hold a pen; I still have some of my never published story books at home. When I was in secondary school, I used to write stories on the board for my classmates and people from other classes would come and read too. So, writing had always been a part of me and will always be a big part of me. Of course, as a good blogger, you have to enjoy writing. So, blogging was the first thing I picked up when I got to Benin republic to fight boredom. I would write series/short stories for http://www.aaaborode.wordpress.com before I launched my first blog http://www.theinkheartblog.wordpress.com 5 years ago. I used to be a fiction and opinionated writer (I still am; once in a very blue moon). It came as a shock that my stories were so widely read and really appreciated. One of my very special moments was when Tunde Leye mentioned me during a twitter chat as one of his favorite Nigerian writers; it meant a lot to me.
I moved on from fiction blogging to lifestyle blogging for connectnigeria.com, 360nobs.com, tosynbucknor.com. I also did editorial works for some platforms like 1pageweekly.com, mainlandbookcafe.com, afrisphere.com (I was also the advertising manager and a columnist for the paperback version of the Afrisphere). I did freelance editing of books and some short stories; all while I was still in school. When I finally graduated, I started working full time at 360nobs.com for another 8 months (I had been working freelance for them for more than a year then) before I left to work as a brand development personnel for Jedidiah’s Place; an afrocentric luxury brand that deals in mostly female accessories like hand bags, head bands, clutch purses, phone cases, laptop bags etc and I also worked with Desire1709 as a social media manager and business development manager for just a very short while. It was after I stopped work with Desire1709 that I decided to face my business squarely.
I attended my first digital marketing training in March 2016 where I learnt Digital Marketing and Strategy 101 with Digify Bytes. In April of the same year, I went for a full scale digital marketing training at Vibe Web Solution and in May (after my certification), I knew what I wanted to do with my brand; to help brands optimize all digital marketing strategy to help them improve their online presence and importance which in turn leads to sales (that is what the online branding and digital marketing agency of Colours And Grey does) and to help bloggers define and carve their niche, help them grow, make them “important and indispensable” to the growth of brands and foster a long lasting business relationship between them and brands; not limited to Nigeria brands alone but across the globe (that is what “The Bloggers’ Advocate and CAG Bloggers’ Forum tackles).
S: What key things should a young Nigerian wanting to follow similar pursuits consider before embarking on their journey?
D: I would say education is key and by education, I do not mean university education(I am not even one of those people who are so keen about school and the rigidity that comes with it). As an entrepreneur, you have to have an open mind to learning and be willing to learn every time. I have picked great lessons from kids, inanimate objects, animals, people around me and one time, I picked a great business lesson from a mad man trying to find a “comfortable” sleeping position by a not so comfortable roadside. Anyone could be giving you major pointers to grow your business, so you should be ready and willing to learn. At the same time, you have to be very careful who you take advice from. There are lots of people who would have an opinion; especially the negative type. I can remember when I was preparing for the first edition of the CAG Bloggers’ Forum, a lot of people had a lot of things to say; no brand would sponsor the event, you should wait till you have reached one year and such. To their shock, I had Zaron cosmetics on board as one of the 14 brand sponsors for the very first edition.
My major advice is for you to go for it even when people think it is the most difficult feat to achieve. Go for it and don’t stop believing in yourself and your dreams. Your dreams are valid. Always believe that.
S: What top tips would you advise a budding marketer/blogger to have at hand?
D: Be willing to help before you charge. I learnt this in both digital marketing schools I attended and I have been using this strategy. I can’t count how many opportunities I have gotten from helping people. People send me freebies out of the blue just because I helped them. As a marketer, you have to be willing to help. It shouldn’t always be about the money.
Secondly, have your price list at hand. There is nothing that spells unprofessional than when you don’t have a direct answer when a potential client asks. Find your unique selling point and equally be very consistent. Don’t wait for opportunities to come knocking, go opportunity hunting. Lastly, I work with God and that makes things so easy for me; even easier than I expect.
S: What practical steps can an individual with no expertise or skill take to get into the digital media/ marketing world?
D: Digital marketing is very broad and where there are some parts that require major skill, there are some elementary ones that can easily be delved into without any major skill like social media management, content development and content management but every aspiring digital marketing expert must be knowledgeable about so many things to get them to stand out; as trends in technology changes like almost every day. So the foremost anybody aspiring to have a career in this line of business is that they must be willing to learn, learn, learn and learn.
S: What events/ networking socials should they look out for in Lagos and beyond?
D: Well, for me, I would say every event that helps you grow better as a digital marketer from free workshops to paid workshops and every event that will add to their client base.
S: What key message will you like to leave with our readers about your journey, work and life so far?
D: No matter how bad you think you may have been, you always have the opportunity to make the best of it. Be persistent about what you want and always be determined. Never at any point give up on your dreams, especially when it looks like the only solution. Your dream is valid; believe that.
Want to know more about Dako Alice Temitope?
Find her on:
Instagram: @coloursandgrey/ @thebloggersadvocate
What can we learn from this inspirational millennial’s story? Leave your comments below.